AU­DI­ENCE DE­CLINE GIVES ABC RED FACES

Herald Sun - - NEWS -

YES­TER­DAY’S ra­dio rat­ings con­firm iden­tity pol­i­tics drives even ABC au­di­ences mad. Last year, the ABC dumped former Sky­hooks star Red Symons for be­ing a white male.

True, it didn’t give that rea­son — or any at all — for flick­ing Symons as break­fast host on Mel­bourne 774, even though he’d done pretty well in the rat­ings.

But new man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Michelle Guthrie had in 2016 de­clared she wanted more di­ver­sity. Not more di­ver­sity of thought at the Left­ist pub­lic broad­caster — heav­ens, no!

On ide­o­log­i­cal grounds, Symons was fine. No, she just wanted more di­ver­sity of ac­cents and skin colours among the Leftists who’ve hi­jacked all the ABC’s mi­cro­phones.

Sure enough, months later the ABC made Mus­lim ac­tivist Yass­min Ab­del-Magied host of its

Aus­tralia Wide pro­gram, only to scrap the show af­ter she’d else­where sneered at An­zac Day and claimed Is­lam was “the most fem­i­nist religion”.

Omi­nously for Symons, a memo from the ABC’s head of ra­dio duly went out, in­struct­ing staff to en­sure elec­tion broad­casts con­tained a “healthy mix of eth­nic­i­ties and ac­cents”.

And at the end of last year, Symons was out, re­placed by co­hosts Sami Shah and Jac­inta Par­sons. The white bloke with an Aus­tralian ac­cent was re­placed by a brown one with a thick Pak­istani ac­cent and by a woman.

Shah had the Left­ist views oblig­a­tory at the ABC. He hated Don­ald Trump, abused Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Peter Dut­ton and tweeted: “Make Amer­ica Go Away.” Cul­tur­ally, he fit­ted in. But pro­fes­sion­ally, he and Par­sons fell short.

They have lit­tle chem­istry and no great ra­dio skills. Shah’s ac­cent would have been dis­tanc­ing for many Aus­tralian lis­ten­ers.

Too harsh? Check yes­ter­day’s rat­ings, the first of the year: Shah and Par­sons lost nearly a quar­ter of Sy­mon’s au­di­ence, plum­met­ing 2.9 points to 10.1 per cent of au­di­ence share. Of course, it takes time for an act to get into gear and for an au­di­ence to ad­just. Maybe Shah and Par­sons will yet lift.

But one thing is clear: in get­ting them to re­place Symons, the ABC did not do their au­di­ence a favour and did not even in­tend to. It seems to have put race, gen­der and eth­nic­ity above the main cri­te­ria for pick­ing a ra­dio host — their abil­ity to please an au­di­ence.

But how sadly com­mon that now is in these tribal times — judg­ing peo­ple not as in­di­vid­u­als but as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of iden­tity groups.

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